Johnny Burke, songwriter of such legendary songs as “Pennies From Heaven”, “One, Two, Button Your Shoe”, “Swinging on a Star” and “I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams”, was born on October 3, 1908 in Antioch, California. He attended Crane College and eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. In 1926, he moved to Chicago and worked as a pianist and song salesman for Irving Berlin Publishing Co. He was transferred to the New York City office in the early 1930’s and there he would begin his career as one of the most prolific songwriters from the era.
At Irving Berlin, Inc., Burke teamed up with Harold Spina, his first major collaboration and the team produced such hits as “Shadows on the Swanee”, “Annie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, “You’re Not the Only Oyster in the Stew”, “Beat of My Heart” and “My Very Good Friend, the Milkman”.
In 1936, Burke moved to Hollywood under contract with Paramount Pictures, the studio he would remain with his entire career. At Paramount, Burke collaborated with new composers including Arthur Johnston, Jimmy Monaco and most notably Jimmy Van Heusen. Films that included Burke scores and songs included Pennies from Heaven, Double of Nothing, Doctor Rhythm, Sing, You Sinners, East Side of Heaven, The Star Maker, Road to Singapore, If I Had My Way, Rhythm on the River, Love Thy Neighbor, Playmates, Road to Zanzibar, Road to Morocco, Dixie, Going My Way, Welcome Stranger, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, “Riding High, Mister Music, and many others. In total, Burke worked on over 50 films, including 25 starring Bing Crosby.
Other catalog highlights are “Let’s Call a Heart a Heart”, “So Do I”, “All You Want to Do is Dance”, “The Moon Got in My Eyes”, “This is My Night to Dream”, “On the Sentimental Side”, “Don’t Let the Moon Get Away”, “Go Fly A Kite”, “An Apple For the Teacher”, “East Side of Heaven”, “Only Forever”, “Meet the Sun Half Way”, “I Don’t Want to Cry Anymore”, “Ain’t Got a Dime to My Name”, “Moonlight Becomes You”, “Sleight Ride in July”, “The Day After Forever”, “Personality”, “Aren’t You Glad You’re You?”, “But Beautiful”, “If You Stub Your Toe on the Moon”, “You’re in Love with Someone”, “Sunshine Cake”, “Early American”, “Moonflowers”, “He Makes Me Feel Lovely”, “What’s New?” and “Misty”.
The 1956 film, The Vagabond King, was Johnny Burke’s last Hollywood work. He moved back New York City and eight years later, on February 25, 1964, he died at age 55.